Liber Jonae CAPUT FIVE Page RES


A natural death is a credible death.
For an apparently natural poisoning
Mother Nature's toxins give the best result.
Prepare Ninus a mushroom omelet,
Substituting toadstools for mushrooms.
Select the most poisonous of toadstools,
But those most easily and plausibly mistaken
For fine mushrooms by nearsighted cooks.
The kitchen staff, I need scarcely remind,
You order put to death without delay,
As soon as doctors confirm the King's death,
Too indignant at your incompetent staff
To await the slow, due process of law
With cross-examinations etcetera.

What will I do without a kitchen staff?
And how do you cook a toadstool omelet?

But nothing, Semiramis, could be easier.
Clean in water four dozen toadstools.
Dry, slice off the stalks, dice the caps,
Sautee in butter, salt and lemon juice.
Lightly beat one egg, add toadstools,
Cook in a flat pan over high flame.
Fold, flip and serve, and wait for two hours.
When salivation and stomach cramps start,
Offer wine to help dissolve the poison.
Do not induce vomiting, if possible,
Or the stomach won't absorb all the toxins.
Watch for delirium and dilated pupils,
Diarrhoea, cold sweat and convulsions.
The King's death will occur shortly after.
When the pulse is gone, call for help,
And contrive to look somewhat distressed.

And that, said the priest, was the end of file,
Nine blank cards, one after another.
The Oracle's pronouncement was now over.
But what it all meant wasn't evident.
The Magi, despite all the lore we'd learned
On how to lay bare heaven's hidden thought,
Could find no key that made it make sense.
Had this message some double meaning,
Some sarcasm, some poisonous jest
Like those that Delphic sibyls deliver?
Just one meaning? No meaning at all?
But odds against this one run are huge!
And there was, moreover, a moral there.
It seemed to say, don't marry for beauty,
A lesson my own father used to teach.
Beauty always deceives, always betrays,
Always departs without the least regret.
Find a mate, he'd say, with good genetics,
A sunny disposition, broad shoulders,
A healthy set of teeth, strong as an ox.
My dad did just that, married an ox,
And not female or even castrate,
Raising some brows around the town square.
But what the rest meant had us all stumped,
In particular parts where the couple plots.
How, with such knowledge, should the State react?

This was indeed an odd message, I said,
But clearly one that begs a quick response.
Did you rush it over to King Ninus
So that this conspiracy could be quashed?

That's what's so odd, said Oroe.
Ninus has been dead a century at least.
Quintus, a bachelor, is our king now,
And Semiramis is also long dead.
The conspiracy, if it ever existed,
Was never attempted with any success.

Not exactly timely then, this message.

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